Scott Blumstein Takes Control on First Day of 2017 WSOP Main Event Final Table
The final table of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event began Thursday night, as the nine remaining players returned to the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino to begin the stretch run towards the $8.15 million first prize and poker immortality. Going into the day, it looked like it would be a battle for supremacy between chip leaders Scott Blumstein (97.250 million chips) and John Hesp (85.700 million), as they had more chips than the other seven players combined. Nobody else had more than about 35 million. And for about half the night, it was the online pro Blumstein and the colorful British amateur Hesp who were in control, but even though Hesp actually used his unpredictability and perhaps a little ebullience to overtake Blumstein and start pulling away, one amazing hand changed everything.
Before we get to that, one of the most intriguing things about this final table is that in the first Main Event final table in a decade that did not take place in the fall, there were two former November Niners seated. Antoine Saout, in seventh place, finished third in the Main Event in 2009, while Ben Lamb, in ninth, also finished third in 2011. Both players have top-25 finishes in the Main Event, as well, to go along with their now two final table appearances.
Lamb was the first to be eliminated last night, though, shoving his short stack with A-9 suited from the button on the fourth hand, only to be called by Jack Sinclair, who had previously raised pre-flop was A-Q. The Queen held and Lamb was gone in ninth place, $1 million richer.
The turning point of the night and a hand that we may be talking about for a long time if Blumstein goes on to win was Hand 47 of the final table, a showdown between the two chip leaders, Blunstein and Hesp. With the two men way out in front of everyone else until Benjamin Pollak started making a move, some might have thought that they would try to stay out of each other’s way and instead pick on the shorter stacks, working on moving up in the money at least until perhaps later Friday.
But no. Blumstein began the action by raising to 2.2 million chips under the gun. Everyone folded until Hesp, who was in the big blind in Seat 1, sandwiched between the dealer on his left and Blumstein on his right. Hesp called and the flop came down A-7-5 (suits were of no consequence). The two players checked to the turn, which produced a Ten. Hesp again checked, but this time, Blumstein bet 3 million.
And then the fireworks began. Hesp raised it to 7 million and then Blumstein four-bet to 17 million. Yup, I think we’re going to get both guys all-in here. Hesp shoved and Blumstein nearly needed to be buckled into his seat to avoid calling before Hesp could complete his action. Again, remember, these are the two monster stacks.
When the cards were revealed, it was no wonder Blumstein was so excited. He had pocket Aces for top set, while Hesp had A-T suited, for a rivered two pair. Problem for Hesp was, in addition to being behind, he was drawing dead. Blumstein exploded when he saw the cards, knowing he had just taken control of the tournament. He doubled-up to 156.050 million, while Hesp, who had been riding high, was now one of the shortest stacks with just 24.225 million chips.
So now, instead of the Blumstein and Hesp show, it was just the Blumstein show. The rest of the players at the table were basically just jockeying for position way behind Blumstein, trying not to be the next one eliminated. The one exception was Pollak, who began an ascent a bit before Blumstein’s big hand, highlighted by a great river call with just top pair, sniffing out a bluff by Dan Ott. Pollak ended the day with 77.525 million chips, a cool 100 million behind Blumstein, but more than 40 million ahead of the third place competitor, Bryan Piccioli.
About half an hour after Jack Sinclair was knocked out in eighth place, ending a night where he really couldn’t find any traction aside from the early felting of Lamb, tournament organizers decided to call it a night. The original plan was to play down to six players and the match hadn’t been going on long at all – from 5:30pm PDT to about 11:00pm PDT), but they likely saw that three players were only in the 14 million to 16 million chip range and Hesp was at less than 23 million, so there is a good chance that some eliminations may come quickly Friday night. Might as well just call it quits and let the players get some sleep.
Afterward, Blumstein spoke with ESPN’s Kara Scott about his day, saying, “Started off pretty good, actually. Had it up to like 111 million and then a couple setbacks had me about 80 (million). And then, obviously, that crazy hand happened and the night definitely went the way I wanted it to.”
Blumstein and Hesp were seated next to each other and looked like they had a nice camaraderie going, so Scott asked him what he said to Hesp after the huge A-A versus A-T hand. Blumstein replied:
It’s hard to have feelings in poker, but when a guy like that is just here to have a good time and have fun, it was like really sad to see a lot of his chips leave his stack because he just wants to be here, you know? And it was going to take a cooler like that to kind of put him in that situation, so I just wanted him to know that we’re still pals and that, you know, it’s just poker and unfortunately, sometimes the cards just fall that way.
Blumstein said that he expected to sleep well, as he had been for a few days, and then study up a bit Friday before hitting the table again and trying to advance to the title.
The remaining seven players will begin play at 5:30pm PDT. Every hand, with hole cards, will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 6:00pm PDT (there is a 30-minute delay for television).
2017 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table Chip Counts
1. Scott Blumstein – 178,300,000
2. Benjamin Pollak – 77,525,000
3. Bryan Piccioli – 35,750,000
4. John Hesp – 22,475,000
5. Dan Ott – 16,350,000
6. Damian Salas – 15,625,000
7. Antoine Saout – 14,550,000
8. Jack Sinclair – ELIMINATED ($1,200,000)
9. Ben Lamb – ELIMINATED ($1,000,000)